Carbon Offsets

Approximately 18 months ago 4RG reviewed web-based carbon offsets for airline passengers.  These offsets enable a passenger to “purchase” financial assistance for projects to reduce GreenHouse gas emissions equivalent to each passengers’s share of carbon emissions from the aircraft during the trip. In this way a passenger’s air flight has a net zero carbon footprint.

As we are about to leave on another international air trip (the Far East via Bombay) an update on carbon offsets is timely.

Since May 2007 the Air Canada Website has a page that allows purchase of carbon offsets.   As of September 2010 Air Canada passengers had paid $263, 042 for these offsets, or nearly $90,000 per year.  Approximately three years later the payments had risen to $306,866, an increase of approximately $13,000 per year.  Clearly offsets are declining in popularity.

For our previous international trip we purchased offsets through, a site recommended by the David Suzuki Foundation.  A page on this site allows a user to insert particulars of the flight and the number of passengers. The page calculates the carbon emissions of the trip, which in our case would be 12.434 tonnes.  We purchased the offset on line for an amount that was not large but neither was it insignificant: $550 dollars Cdn for the two of us.

The offset site reviewed carbon-reduction projects in India endorsed by leading international environmental groups – including WWF International. One project featured was the Malavalli Renewable Power Plant, a 4.5MW biomass-based renewable energy generating facility located in Karnataka, India, about 125 km from the city of Bangalore.

The project uses waste from crop production—sugar cane matter and coconut fronds—to generate electricity. Prior to the project’s implementation, this waste was either burnt on the fields or left to decay. In either case carbon dioxide and methane, both harmful greenhouse gases, would be released into the air.

The Malavalli project enables local farmers and labourers to become entrepreneurs in the procurement business through the sale of their crop waste. The project promoters also established Grameena Abhivrudhi Mandali, a non-profit community-based organization that manages power distribution, billing and revenue collection for the project.

Additional sustainability benefits from the project include the implementation of a 100% ash utilization scheme. This program involves the production of organic fertilizer, which is redistributed to local farmers, thereby promoting organic farming.

We felt that our contribution would encourage these projects in India, a country where Greenhouse Gas emissions are scheduled to grow over the next decade.

Some day soon, airlines will agree to an international carbon trading scheme, the costs of which will be included in the price of airline tickets.  In the meantime, international air travellers have an option to purchase carbon offsets.  Regrettably it is not an option often used.


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